The La Verne Leopards baseball team began their season by defeating the Lewis and Clark Pioneers, 11-8, Saturday at Ben Hines Field after an early finish due to electric problems.
Following two additional wins over Puget Sound and a loss to Pacific, the Leopards now sit at 3-1 overall.
While the Leopards put up 11 runs despite the premature ending, the game did not start out pretty for them. The Pioneers took a 2-0 lead after a sloppy start by the Leopards.
However, La Verne freshman left fielder Matthew Dodd was not going to allow the Leopards to go down easy.
At the bottom of the second, Dodd shifted the momentum of the game by hitting an RBI triple that breathed new life into the Leopards.
The Leopards truly separated themselves from the Pioneers in the fourth inning by taking a serious 7-2 lead after a triple by center fielder Patrick Keller that allowed two runners to fly past home base to further open up the score.
The Leopards got comfortable with their lead which allowed Lewis and Clark to go on a scoring run that cut the lead to three at 7-4.
Luckily for the Leopards, right fielder Brandon Shiota stepped up to silence the hyped Pioneers dugout.
Shiota hit an inside the park home run that seized the Leopards’ momentum back.
“After I got that first strike, I was looking for a pitch I can drive and he [Pioneer freshman pitcher Sean Vanderaa] left it over the plate and I took advantage of it,” Shiota said.
During the Leopards postgame it became clear how much confidence the team has in the versatility of their system.
Freshman pitcher Jaylon Fong was confident the Leopards would win in the end, no matter who was pitching.
“[Senior pitcher Travis Moffatt] would’ve shut it down and if not we always have a guy ready to go in at any time,” Fong said. “I think that’s the beauty of the staff, that we have everyone always ready to go in at any time.”
Head coach Scott Winterburn said he was not surprised about the result of the game saying the mistakes the team made were typical for the first game of the season, but he also made sure his team trusted the process.
By no means was this a bad first game for the Leopards in comparison to last season where they lost to Pacific Lutheran opening night.
The following day on Saturday, the Leopards took on the Puget Sound Loggers, rolling over the northwest team in a sweep by winning game one 8-4 then game two 12-1.
Riding high off its 3-0 start, the team looked to carry its momentum into the next game against the Pacific Boxers on the next day.
Unfortunately, the Boxers got out to a massive early lead, scoring four runs in the first inning, then seven in the fourth.
The Leopards were unable to recover.
La Verne will start a road trip in Texas this weekend, facing Trinity at noon on Friday before taking on Concordia at 3 p.m.
After returning from Texas, the team will play on the road at Chapman in their Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener.
The Leopards look to improve upon where they left off last season, where they finished the regular season in second place, before a disappointing SCIAC postseason tournament performance – beating Occidental in the first round but were eliminated following 4-1 losses to Chapman and Cal Lutheran that put them out of contention.
Anthony Eramya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.